Sunday, March 08, 2009

Unfinished Business

Along with two colleagues I am due to sit on the second day of a part-heard case next week. The case was originally listed for one day, but by the middle of the afternoon on the first day it became clear that we would not be able to finish it, even if we pushed the end time beyond the ideal of 4.30 to 5 p.m. I can't say anything about the case, but I can say that the court's admin staff find part-heard trials disruptive of their listing process. Once a trial goes part-heard the court has to find a date when the bench can re-assemble (not always easy with a lay bench, especially in the holiday season, or if, as happened recently, one of its members is eight months pregnant, or if one or more has a full-time job). They then have to find a courtroom, and that will involve cancelling the bench who are down to sit that day, and then go through the palaver of rearranging the cancelled trial - not always easy when there are multiple witnesses, especially if some of them have travel and family commitments scheduled, or if they are police officers who have training or other duties planned.
So I hope we shall be able to knock off the case this week, and to that end I may have to crack the whip over the somewhat prolix (and privately instructed) defence counsel. He may say what he likes, but I shall have to insist that he only says it once. There are a lot of things to consider when deciding to adjourn part-heard, not least the stress and inconvenience caused to witnesses.
Wish us all luck.

(Tuesday - it went wrong and has been adjourned. Bugger.)

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